WHY is it that some people have a fixation with toilets? Not just in Australia, but around the world.
When Queen Elizabeth II visited Australia in 1963, she toured the Snowy Mountains Scheme near the NSW-Victorian border.
Bureaucrats, worried about her being caught short, as she was driven through the bush, spent days pumping fly spray along the route she travelled on roads near Cooma, to ensure she wouldn’t have to keep giving give the traditional “Aussie salute”. And they erected dozens of portable loos – a rarity in those days – every dozen or so kilometres.
Well, Her Majesty actually did need to spend a penny and was pleased at the public servants’ foresight. But within 10 minutes of her ascending the “throne”, some local citizen had stolen the toilet seat. Did it later hold a place of honour on the wall at some local farmhouse? We will never know.
The interest in toilets remains. A travel website has just announced the second annual International Toilet Tourism Awards. MyTravelresearch.com aims to show tourism destinations how clean, creative or quirky public toilets, go a long way to boosting a destination’s image and generating tourism dollars.
The website points to the success of last year’s inaugural winner. Since the toilets at the Southern Highlands Welcome Centre at Mittagong, south of Sydney, were refurbished visits to the centre have jumped from 60,000 to 72,000.
And sales of travel items and souvenirs, plus bookings for local accommodation and sightseeing tours at the centre’s tourist shop have risen a whopping 20 per cent per year.
The toilets include a bright colour scheme, posters, audio reel, quirky fact stickers and free Wi-Fi. In recent weeks the centre has added a bright mosaic entry wall.
Visitors to the centre are encouraged to visit local landmarks such as the childhood home in nearby Bowral of the legendary cricketer Don Bradman and the oval and museum named after the great man. The latter now houses the International Cricket Hall of Fame.
There is also encouragement to take a look at a statue of another famous local icon, Mary Poppins. Mary Poppins? The statue pays tribute to the author P.L. Travers, (real name Helen Lyndon Goff), who spent much of her childhood in Bowral, during the early 20th Century, although she only began writing her popular Mary Poppins children’s books in 1933 after she had moved to Britain.
The statue was unveiled during Bowral’s sesquicentenary in 2013, two years after some 2115 people gathered on Bradman Oval holding aloft umbrellas – Mary’s trademark – to set a world’s best for the Guinness Book of Records.
The visitors to the Welcome Centre are also reminded of the famous Tulip Time Festival which this year will run from September 18 to October 1. In a spectacular floral display more than 75,000 tulip bulbs and 15,000 annuals are planted in Corbett Gardens.
The tourist chiefs of the Southern Highlands discovered that rather than being an expensive burden, quality public toilets can prove a cosy little money-maker for their attractions.